13 Tips To Adopt A Greener Way Of Life

When it comes to going green, people are finding that little changes in their homes and daily routines can have large positive benefits on the environment. Here are 13 tips you can implement in your own home today.

Collect the Excess Water When Washing Produce: Most of us have a habit of running the tap for long periods of time when washing fruits and vegetables. Instead of having all that water go down the drain, wash fruits in a colander that sits on the rim of a large pot or container. As you wash the produce, you can collect the dirty water and use it to water plants in and around the house.

Use pantry products as cleaners: White distilled vinegar, baking soda, and essential natural oils can be used as cleaning products for your furniture, counters and appliances. They’re both effective cleaners and safer for the environment.

Use less water in major appliances: You will use less water if you wash full loads of dishes in the dishwasher and full loads of dirty clothes in the washing machine. Also, wash laundry in cold water to save on heating energy.

Organize small objects with recycled glass jars and plastic containers: Jars, butter tubs and mayonnaise containers can be cleaned out and reused to hold small items around the house such as nuts, screws, bolts, marbles, coins, paper clips, and a range of other items.

Collect rainwater: Collecting rainwater to use for watering house plants, outdoor gardens and patio plants can significantly decrease water usage during drier months.

Insulate water heaters to save energy: Insulation blankets can be wrapped around your water heater to save on energy. This method allows the water to stay warm for longer periods, which means that your water heater will run less and use less energy.

Install high-efficiency low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets: Newer high-efficiency taps, toilets and showerheads are designed to conserve more water than the older models, while also providing good water pressure.

Use power strips to save energy: Plug appliances and electronics that don’t need to be on all the time into power strips. Turn off the power strip when you’re not using them to lessen electrical usage.

Swap and donate items: Most clothing, appliances and furniture items don’t have to go to a landfill. There are many places where you can swap items with someone else or donate gently used items to be re-purposed or used by someone new.

Switch to CFL or LED lighting: Lessen energy costs by using more energy efficient lighting options.

Install dimmer switches and timers throughout the home: Dimmer switches are ideal in your home as you can lessen the amount of electricity you use when you don’t need a bright light. Timers are another great way to save on energy usage and utilize daylight to its fullest potential throughout the year.

Reuse old shower curtains: Old shower curtains make great drop cloths when you are painting or need to prevent messes.

Support Your Shoes with Recycled Magazines: The upper part of knee-high leather boots can become floppy with age, creating unwanted creasing or cracks in the leather. Instead of throwing out old magazines, roll them up and place them into the boots to help maintain their shape.

Making just a few simple changes around your house can lead to an overall greener lifestyle.

The custom home experience

It may seem obvious, but building a custom home is just not the same as buying one. A custom home is your home, not something the builder thought up or the previous owner chose. Every choice is yours and the experience you have should allow you to take your time and do it right.

Because there are a lot more choices to make, there should be a well thought out process that allows you to go on a voyage of discovery with your builder to make sure you get a house that fits the way you live, looks the way you want it to and reflects your sensibilities down to the last detail. Oh also it should be fun and stress free.

The best custom home creation experiences, like the one that Las Ventanas has developed should tick off all of the boxes when it comes to process, organization and execution. Nothing should go wrong and if you do it correctly the experience should be smooth and predicable. Most important you should feel like you, your builder and your project manager are in sync from the start and stay that way.

At Las Ventanas we’ve developed a multi-step process that’s designed to ensure that things go right from the start and stay that way. Here’s how we do it:

  1. The Design Process –we’ve designed a unique process for working with our customers to make sure we understand what they need and want. Our process usually starts with a conversation about how you live your life (more on this in a follow up email) because that will drive most of your decisions – the floor plan you choose, the fixtures and finishes you need, everything in other words that will make your new home uniquely yours. We’re usually able to identify the key elements of your new home in one or two sessions and once we do we can get to work.
  1. The Budgeting Process – once we’ve planned all of the features in your home we draw up a detailed budget that reflects all of the selections you’ve made and we continue to monitor the budget in our weekly review sessions so you know where the project is at all times. Because you get very high quality materials, fixtures and finishes from the start the budgeting process is pretty much free of the kind of change orders that most contracts charge as you go through the process.
  1. The Building Process – once we’ve agreed on the layout, fixtures and finishes we develop a construction plan with a dedicated project manager and construction superintendent. The plan lays out precisely the deliverables and timeline for your home. Your project manager makes sure the work is getting done in the right order and time. Your construction superintendent makes sure the work is done right from start to finish. Both of them stay with you through-out the whole process and schedule weekly on-site progress meetings with you so you can be certain that everything is going according to your wishes.

Taken together the elements of our approach make the experience of building your custom home stress free, predictable and yes enjoyable. In that sense we are very different from most of the builders you’ve come in contact with who offer very basic materials and make their money on the change orders. We don’t think it should work like that.

If you’d like to meet with me to find out more about how we work and the experience I want to provide, I’d be happy to walk you through our process and show you our work. Thanks very much

Picking a builder

I’ve talked a lot about the experience we think everyone should have when they decide to build a custom home. What I haven’t talked a lot about is how important picking your builder is. It’s probably the single most important decision you’ll make and its not an easy one.

Obviously I’m somewhat biased since I’d like to work with you to build your new home, but the questions you should ask any builder really should be, the same ones I’d expect you would ask me as you do your due diligence. Here’s the short list:

  1. How many homes has the builder built ? – this is a critical question, because you want to work with a builder who’s built a lot of homes. Experience counts and builders who’ve been at it for a long time know what to look out for, know how to solve small problems before they become big ones and that can save you time and money. At a minimum ask your builder for references and talk with the people he or she has worked for. The key question is would they work with the builder again.
  1. What type of relationship does the builder have with suppliers and sub-contactors? – long standing relationships with reputable suppliers and sub-contractors are critical to the quality and speed of the work that gets done. We’ve been working with the same top level suppliers and sub-contractors for decades. We know the quality of their work, because we’ve seen a lot of it and they know our work because they’ve worked along side of us for years.
  1. How good a listener is the builder? – it may seem obvious but effective communications between you and your builder is essential to building your home. Your builder needs to be a good listener – he or she needs to understand your goals and more important pick up on your concerns early in the process and as the work. You can usually find out how good a listener a builder is the first time you sit down with them, but it helps when you go through your reference checks to ask people the builder has worked how good a listener he or she is
  1. It needs to feel right – in the end successful builder/client relationships are based on trust and usually trust is a matter of instinct. If something doesn’t feel right when you sit down the first time to talk with a builder pay attention. In the same vein when you talk to references spend some time talking about the kind of relationship the buyer and the builder created over time.

If the answers your get from your builder and the references he or she provides you with are positive you’re probably on the right track.

Building Green

Building green houses is a combination of art and science. We’ve been building them for more than a decade. We don’t build any other kind of homes because we believe in sustainability and take our responsibility to preserve the beauty and environment of New Mexico seriously.

While many builders claim to build green, its not that simple. There’s a lot to it and you have to know what you’re doing. We’re certified by the Build Green New Mexico alliance. All of our homes are certified by Build Green and our staff, subcontractors and sales people have all been trained on green building principles.

When you are considering building a green house you should think about the following factors:

  1. Air quality – Indoor air quality is important and so green building should start with how to clean the air in the home. Proper systems and filtration are essential to ensuring that the air you’ll be breathing is properly conditioned.
  1. The envelope – A tight building envelope is the key to a truly efficient house. Foam or blown in insulation is an important part of creating the tight envelope and ensuring that your house conserves energy efficiently.
  1. Mechanical equipment – Mechanical equipment should be of the highest efficiency and quality. It’s important to use only well trusted quality brands.

Green building or energy efficient building doesn’t mean you have to compromise your life style. You should still be comfortable in your home and if its designed correctly using green principles you will be.

For more information on green building I’d encourage you to visit the Build Green organization site (http://buildgreennm.com/). They have a lot of useful information that you should consider as you plan your home.